Coming this November, writer Greg Pak makes his debut with Dark Horse Comics in a western/fantasy adventure titled Kingsway West. Partnering with regular artistic collaborator Mirko Colak, Pak’s story focuses on a Chinese gunslinger in search of his missing wife all the while battling against both the supernatural and hard-edged vigilantess.
Pak talked with Newsarama about coming to Dark Horse, mixing genres with this series, and doing his first true creator-owned series.
Newsarama: Greg, correct me if I’m wrong here, but Kingsway West is your first time working at Dark Horse Comics, no? What brought you two together to tell this story?
Greg Pak: I’d been talking with Mirko Colak, an amazing artist I collaborated with on Red Skull: Incarnate and Turok, for months about doing this book. And when the time came, Mirko said he knew someone at Dark Horse and made the introduction. Jim Gibbons is our editor, and from the get-go he just totally understood what we were going for with this story of a Chinese outlaw in the Old West. He just loved the story. But then he did the greatest thing and asked me if there wasn’t another level I could take it to. And he was totally right. So I thought about the things I loved about the story and about Westerns and the big emotional story I was telling, and I realized this shared so much with the fantasy epics I’ve loved since I was a kid. So here we are with Kingsway West, the story of a Chinese gunslinger searching for his wife in a world overrun with magic.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the protagonist, Kingsway Law?
Pak: Kingsway’s a gunslinger, a wild product of the frontier. But he lost his wife because he couldn’t turn the other cheek. So now, years later, he’s trying to find her again and build a new life. But to do that, he has to fight his natural instincts and stay out of trouble. The trick is that he’s traveling through a frontier where people like him have become scapegoats for every evil that roams the land. So he’ll have to weigh his heart’s desire against what might be his actual destiny. It’s a big story about romance and the nature of heroism and the horror of racist violence and the dream of a different America.
Nrama: This series seems like it’s going to be a real “genre mashup” with Western, fantasy, drama, and action all rolled up into one. What was the appeal to taking this approach to your story?
Pak: I’ve been dreaming about various versions of this story since I was a film student at New York University two decades ago. And for years, I thought of it as a totally straight Western, but with a Chinese hero and a Mexican heroine. And that’s absolutely a valid way to tell the story and I love love love the screenplay I wrote based on that scenario. But as I grew as a storyteller in comics, I became more and more immersed in fantastical world-building. I just love that kind of storytelling —"Planet Hulk" remains one of my favorite experiences of all time as a writer. So when Jim challenged me to take the story to the next level, it all made sense. I realized that by opening it up and bringing in these fantastical elements, I’d be able to get right to the heart of the big emotional story I wanted to tell. I think that’s something I learned from Ray Bradbury and William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Hayao Miyazaki — sometimes the best way to get to human reality is through surreal fantasy.
Nrama: While serving as a hybrid of different genres, it still comes across as a tale of the Old West, admittedly, a genre that seems like it can be difficult to translate into comics. Do you think that’s the case? What are some of the challenges you find with the genre and what aspects of it do you think contemporary readers still connect with and enjoy?
Pak: I’ve seen some folks argue that the Western has faded in popularity because more Americans live in urban environments than ever before. But I point to the Lord of the Rings movies. Those are huge outdoor adventure stories that share a lot of the trappings of Westerns, and everyone on Earth fell in love with them. With Kingsway West, we get the best of both worlds — the great thematic and cultural resonance of traditional Westerns with the wild, glorious genre fun of fantasy. It’s Once Upon A Time In The West meets Princess Mononoke, and you’re gonna love it.
Nrama: As you mentioned, you're working again with Mirko. What made you seek him about to begin with for this?
Pak: I loved working with Mirko on Red Skull Incarnate. He’s a demon for detail and made all of the elements of that historically accurate story feel absolutely authentic. At the same time, he does great action and has a real sensitivity for character. So I thought he’d do an incredible job with Kingsway West, and he was hugely enthusiastic when I pitched it.
Nrama: How has your collaborative relationship changed or grown as you move into this next project together? What about his style and aesthetic felt like it was the right choice for Kingsway West compared to some of your other collaborators?
Pak: What’s been a revelation is how he’s hit a totally new level as we’ve developed the magical elements of the story. He’s coming up with glorious, epic images while still making those main characters feel totally human and real. Mirko also draws the natural world beautifully. And this is a big outdoor story that really wants that kind of sensitivity. I’m kind of in heaven here.
Nrama: In what ways do you find Kingsway West stretches you as a writer when compared to the rest of the body of your work?
Pak: This is a story I’ve been aching to do for two decades, but it’s probably really, really good it’s taken this long to really get off the ground. I’ve written a ton of things over the years that have helped me hone the skills and become familiar with the genres I’m tackling here. So in a lot of ways, this might be the culmination of a lot of things I’ve explored as a writer during my career.
Nrama: Greg, I understand you’re looking to experiment not only with the comic but also the way in the marketing and ordering aspects of the book. Can you speak about what you have planned here?
Pak: This is my first creator-owned series, so I’m going all out — I’ve created KingswayWest.com, a website where you can pre-order the book with a brick-and-mortar store near you. It’s super easy — you just pick a nearby store from the list, enter your name and email, indicate how many books you want, and submit! When the book comes out, we’ll send you a reminder email and you’ll pick it up and pay for it at the store you chose.
Pre-orders are insanely important for all comics, but especially for independent comic books like this. If you want a book to survive and thrive, the absolutely best thing you an do is pre-order. So please take a second and pre-order it today! The first hundred folks who pre-order will get a free Kingsway Or The Highway bumper sticker, so you’ll also have that going for you. KingswayWest.com, y’all. All the cool kids are doing it!
Nrama: Last question: What sort of surprises do you have in store for readers within the pages of your first issue that you think make this a “must read” debut?
Pak: Where else are you going to get a Western starring a Chinese gunslinger, a Chinese swordswoman, and a female Buffalo Soldier named Strode in a world overrun with magic that includes vigilantes on killer jackalopes, racist giants, in a mind-bending exploration of an alternate American dream?